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Mission statements can energise companies

29 June 2018 by Henry Ker

Mission statements can energise companies

A clear mission can go to the heart of business operations

Companies are usually run with a clear mission and purpose. These are often simple, but incredibly ambitious – some are conveniently vague.

Google’s is to ‘Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’, Amazon’s is ‘to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online’, while Ikea’s is ‘to create a better everyday life for the many people’.

Some you may struggle to link back to the service they actually provide (take Starbucks’ ‘to inspire and nurture the human spirit’, for example).

But are these just pithy soundbites or do they actually sit at the heart of the way the business operates?

This month’s cover interview, with Niamh O’Sullivan of Cancer Research UK – an organisation with a similarly ambitious and concise vision, but one that is very real: ‘to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured’.

She spoke to me about the energy at the charity and how ‘the people here are really committed to the mission of the organisation: that by 2034, three out of four patients survive cancer. It is a powerful message that motivates our staff in their everyday work.’

Underpinning all of this are the staff, volunteers, researchers, fundraisers and the organisation’s governance. As O’Sullivan explains, ‘Good governance underpins an effective organisation that has a well-developed strategy and is focused on its objectives … Good governance is a virtuous circle.’

Oft-neglected, the communication process around an organisation’s mission and how their systems support it is also improving. We have a feature from GSK and Unilever, joint winners of Sustainability Disclosure of the Year at the ICSA Awards 2017, where they take us through how they bring their corporate values to life through reporting.

As Jonny McCaig of Unilever explains, ‘[the company’s purpose] is a driving force behind how we work’.

With the public increasingly interested in how organisations are run, as much as the end result, this communication process is now a vital part of stakeholder engagement. Hopefully, good governance will help ensure many missions are ultimately achieved.

Henry Ker is editor of Governance and Compliance

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